Applying Response to Intervention in Physical Education

By Dauenhauer, Brian D. | Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, May-June 2012 | Go to article overview

Applying Response to Intervention in Physical Education


Dauenhauer, Brian D., Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators


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Have you ever wished that you could have additional instructional time with those students who are not in the Healthy Fitness Zone (The Cooper Institute, 2007)? Do you aspire to help students who are physically inactive? If students are not meeting expectations, specifically in terms of physical activity and fitness standards, how can instruction be modified so that they can be successful? Students who are identified as underachieving receive additional academic support through a mechanism called response to intervention (RtI). This model takes a systematic and proactive approach to addressing learning disparities among children. If screening indicates that a child is not meeting grade level expectations, more intensive support is provided. Often, three levels or tiers of instruction are offered based upon the responsiveness of the child. Simply put, if a child is not learning the way they are being taught, alternative strategies are explored. The core principles of RtI, according to the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE, 2005), are presented in Figure 1. If your school is already using the RtI model in other subject areas, why are these same opportunities not being provided for students who have health risks? After all, healthy children learn better (Basch, 2010). Accordingly, the purpose of this article is to help teachers apply the RtI model in physical education to promote physical activity and fitness for all students.

How the RtI Model Looks in Physical Education

Despite global attention in other subject areas, RtI has yet to infiltrate physical education on a wide scale. One elementary school in Texas, however, has been applying a three-tiered RtI model in physical education since 2008. The application of the model in physical education is not always a direct fit with other academic subjects and is continuously being adapted and improved. This section will provide an overview of the three tiers of the RtI model and how they have been modified for physical education. As you read, keep an open mind to the model's potential application in your current setting.

Tier One

Tier One is the foundation provided to every student through quality physical education. It is not recommended to proceed to higher tiers of intervention until a solid Tier One is in place. At the example school, all K-5 students are provided with 150 minutes of physical education each week, as recommended by NASPE. The curriculum is based on national and state standards for physical education and teachers from two evidence-based physical education curricula: Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids (SPARK, 2012) and the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH, 2012) physical education kit. Students are guided in the development of basic movement skills necessary to become proficient in a wide range of physical activities and are provided the knowledge and self-management skills to participate in physical activity on their own. They are also encouraged to value physical activity and fitness for the health-related and affective benefits it provides.

Figure 1. Core Principles of Response to Intervention

1) We can effectively teach all children
2) Intervene early
3) Use a multi-tier model of service delivery
4) Use a problem-solving method to make decisions within
   a multi-tier model
5) Use research-based, scientifically validated interventions/
   instruction to the extent available
6) Monitor student progress to inform instruction
7) Use data to make decisions
8) Use assessment to screen all children, diagnose individuals,
and monitor progress

* Adapted from National Association of State Directors of
Special Education (2005).

In addition to physical education, 30 minutes each week is devoted to a physically active health lesson. The Great Body Shop (The Great Body Shop, 2012), a comprehensive research-based health curriculum, is used to teach students a variety of important health topics, including concepts related to nutrition, fitness, violence prevention, safety, and illness prevention. …

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